All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Sunday, 25 January 2009

We, The Kick-Ass Jews

I come from a generation that wears its Judaism with pride for all to see.

For as long as I can remember, I've made sure that everyone knows I am a Jew. I do this by wearing my Kippah (skullcap), wherever I go (unless I know that doing so would put me in harm's way) irrespective of the kind of comments I am likely to receive from others.

When I started teaching, I made a point of showing off my Hebraic allegiances in a school that was about 70% Muslim - and not an inconsiderable number of students had a real problem with my brethren. I reasoned that if they could go around wearing their religious garb, why the hell should I be precluded from doing so. In showing my affiliation in such a manner, I did get some stick from a number of prejudiced students, which included spitting as I walked past them and hearing the delightful "kill the Jew" comment, but I preserved, precisely because I knew that showing these kids who I was and what nation belonged to, was an important way of demonstrating that I was not going to cower away, just because they had a problem with me, or rather, with my religion.

I think that my attitude comes probably as a result of being the child of a someone who survived the Holocaust. Whereas my mother had to hide her religion, to save her life, I was going to do exactly the opposite and do my bit to redress the shame that some of my ancestors would have felt as they walked the streets, glared at by some of their Gentile neighbours.

To this day, I still get the comments and slights from people who have an issue with Jews and/or Israel. I take it in my stride because I know that I, a Jew, absolutely refuse to be ashamed of either who I am, or of the country about whom I care about more than myself. If people have a problem with me, it is their issue, not mine.

I write all of this on the back of having just seen "Defiance", the film that recalls the exploits (albeit in a Hollywoodized fashion and probably somewhat exaggerated) of the Bielski brothers who fought the Nazis, Russians and just about anyone who was going around trying to exterminate their/our people.

These guys were amazing and I would like to believe that had I been around in 1941, I would have wanted to join them. For once, I saw Jews who refused to accept the decree cast upon them by the Nazis and fought back - knowing full well that they were outnumbered by superior forces who could easily have added their tally to the lists of the dead in Auschwitz, Treblinka and Babi Yar.

They fought back.

In 2008, Israel, having endured thousands of rockets from the spiritual descendants of these savages, also fought back, albeit this time with superior firepower.

In my own humble way, I would like to be remembered as one of the Jews who although he hadn't fired a single shot at anyone, did his own bit to "fight" for his Jews brethren and his beliefs - if only by wearing a Kippah in public and saying, in the parlance of another persecuted nation - "I'm Jewish and I'm proud - anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are your deficiencies and hangups - not mine".

Yeah, folks, I'm a helluva kick-ass Jew.

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